Then Yeshua said to His disciples, “If any one wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
Deny – What does Yeshua’s statement mean to you? Do you think of denial in terms of turning away from pointless affluence, seductive pleasures or immoral behavior? Do you think that Yeshua intended us to refuse our own selfish desires in order to submit to God’s higher purposes? Perhaps we gain a deeper understanding of the nature of denial when we apply this instruction to the specific arena of money. Jacques Ellul helps us see this connection when he says, “When God attacks this power [money] that has us in its grip because it has aroused our love, when he tears away a treasure to which we have become attached, he is attacking us. God’s deliverance in not a stroke of a magic wand which leaves us intact, the way we were. It is a rescue of part of ourselves. Consequently we may have the impression , the feeling, of being amputated, diminished. God who is delivering us from the shackles of this power, is also destroying its roots which have taken hold of us.” In other words, the act of denial is an invitation to let God amputate. It isn’t simply refusing to do something we really want to do. It is asking God to cut it out of our hearts.
The Greek verb aparneomai means “to renounce, to disown.” Yeshua reminds us that renouncing other lovers is a requirement of following Him. This is no different than the requirement of the first commandment. YHWH has exclusive right to the love of His children and He will tolerate no rival, even if that rival has roots deep within our own personalities. Exorcism must follow. The fact that Yeshua demands such exclusivity in a Jewish culture is another indication that He is God manifest in the flesh. If this were not the case, His requirement could be nothing but idolatry.
Consider what this means for our world’s preoccupation with money. Money and wealth are not the same. Money is a tool. It is to be used as a tool. That means it has no intrinsic value. It is not something to be enjoyed in itself. It is to be used to bring about those purposes and plans that enrich life and advance the Kingdom. God grants wealth. He grants it to those who are equipped to accomplish His purposes with their abundance. Not all respond appropriately to His gift. The consequences of this rejection will be worked out in the Judgment. Not all are wealthy, but money touches everyone. Whenever we convert money into a goal rather than a tool, we invest value into it and make it into an idol. God intends us to use money, not to collect it. In fact, money has no purpose aside from its use to bring about restoration. That doesn’t mean it is only used for evangelism. That is too limited. Money is a tool that should be used to enhance life. It is life that has value. Money is simply a means to bring life to the full.
Does that mean our objective is to have as much comfort and convenience as money can buy? Of course not. Wherever life suffers from lack of money, we who have the tool need to apply it. Believe me, there are enormous opportunities to enhance life that do not include jet skis and iPods. When those opportunities are fulfilled, then there will be time to think about jet skis.
Let’s consider one simple example. The norms of business often provide commission payments in financial deals. Good business could be defined as doing everything according to the norms – or – we could act on the basis of Kingdom ethics, deny that money is anything more than a tool, and be generous toward others whenever we are able. We can remove the power of money by refusing to allow it to determine our behavior.
Is God amputating a bit of your worldview today? Are you assisting Him in the exorcism of subtle idolatry?
Topical Index: deny, aparneomai, money, Ellul, Matthew 16:24
 Jacques Ellul, Money and Power, p. 85.